NHS England sets up team to plan rollout of promising new drugs
NHS England has set up a team that will plan how to roll out promising new drugs even as they wait to be approved by regulators, the chief executive of the health service has said.
It comes after new drug donanemab was found to slow cognitive and functional decline associated with Alzheimer’s by about 35% in a late-stage phase 3 clinical trial earlier this year.
Amanda Pritchard told BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg show that they are “already thinking about” what it would take to roll out new drugs, such as donanemab.
“We’re already thinking about what would it take in terms of scanning capacity, what would it take until you have the ability to actually deliver these drugs,” she said.
We’ve got potentially a million people in this country who’ve got dementia now. It’s the biggest killer in the UK
“I’ve set up a team in NHS England, already working with colleagues, so that we get ahead and we’re ready if we get the green light.”
She said dementia is the “biggest killer” in the UK.
“We’ve got potentially a million people in this country who’ve got dementia now,” she said. “It’s the biggest killer in the UK.
According to Eli Lilly and Company, which makes donanemab, the drug appeared to slow the decline associated with Alzheimer’s compared with a placebo in 1,182 people with early-stage disease based on those with intermediate levels of a protein known as tau.
The drug also resulted in 40% less decline in the ability to perform activities of daily living, according to the firm.
Almost half (47%) of those on donanemab had no clinical progression of disease at one year compared with 29% on a placebo (defined as no decline in the commonly-used clinical dementia rating scale sum of boxes score).
Similarly, another new dementia drug, lecanemab, has also shown promise – slowing decline by 27%.
Dementia is the UK's biggest killer, and people affected by it have waited too long for new treatments. These are now on the horizon, and with concerted effort we can make sure they reach people who need them as swiftly as possible
Alzheimer’s Research UK welcomed plans to prepare the NHS for new treatments for the disease.
The charity’s executive director of policy and communications, Samantha Benham-Hermetz, said: “Dementia is the UK’s biggest killer, and people affected by it have waited too long for new treatments.
“These are now on the horizon, and with concerted effort we can make sure they reach people who need them as swiftly as possible.”
She added that “these drugs will pose several challenges”, and outlined “three things that need particular attention”.
“First, we hope to see collaborative and constructive dialogue between leadership at NHS England, drug manufacturers, the MHRA, Nice, the Association of British Neurologists and the Royal College of Psychiatrists to make sure any treatments that are licensed can be made available without delay,” she said.
She also called on NHS England to “consider using the Innovative Medicines Fund to pay for them”, and said “we want to see new services and outcomes-based pathways developed and rolled out using the Brain Health Clinics model”.
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